Bass Guitar Scales

Bass Guitar Scales

C Melodic Minor Bass Guitar Scales December 15, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — flutelfrio @ 7:33 am
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One of the most often overlooked ways to play bass guitar scales is one octave on two strings.   These are four notes per string patterns, and are precursors to really being able to whip around the fretboard and connect the in position shapes that are always taught.

If you google “bass guitar scales” the first page that always pops up has all the in position fingerings.  Now, I’m not going to show you those because someone else already has, and I think they’re not so useful for making music.  They’re OK for sightreading practice, but if you want to jam, you need to now how to move up and down the neck with grace.

So, here are the scales:

C Melodic Minor on the D and G strings

C Melodic Minor on the A and D strings

C Melodic Minor on the E and A strings

Notice the slides.  No, I don’t want you to slur the notes.  The slides I’ve notated are where you’re supposed to shift positions.  Use your index finger as an anchor, and always slide with it on these scales.  Tomorrow I’ll post these shapes in F and G. We’re going to go through the circle of fifths in opposite directions simultaneously!

Good luck with these bass guitar scales!


Melodic Minor Bass Guitar Scales December 14, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — flutelfrio @ 8:10 am
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The melodic minor scale is one of the coolest bass guitar scales. Not only the melodic minor scale, but its modes are particularily useful in riffing and improvisation.

What is a melodic minor scale?

Well, there are a few ways to define it:

  • as a scale containing degrees 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7 8
  • in solfege: Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do
  • a major scale with a flatted third

It’s also useful to define it in comparison with other minor scales:

  • the dorian mode with a major/natural seventh
  • harmonic minor scales with a major/natural seventh
  • the aeolian mode (natural minor scale) with a major/natural sixth and seventh

When learning new scales I find it’s best to first play them in the key of, and up and down, the open strings. Here they are:

   E Melodic Minor

   A Melodic Minor

   D Melodic Minor

   G Melodic Minor

Alright, that’s enough for today. Tomorrow I’ll be posting more ways to play melodic minor bass guitar scales.


Pentatonic Bass Guitar Scales December 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — flutelfrio @ 9:23 pm

For any bass player, the pentatonic scale is one of the most important bass guitar scales to know.

What is a pentatonic scale? A pentatonic scale is any scale that contains five notes. The two most popular pentatonic scales are the major pentatonic and the minor pentatonic.

The minor pentatonic scale is constructed of the root, minor third, fourth, fifth, and minor seventh scale degrees. In A, that would give you these notes: A, C, D, E, and G. It’s like an Am7 arpeggio with the fourth (D) added. Another way to look at it is the Dorian, Phrygian, or Aeolian modes with the second and sixth scale degrees removed.

A major pentatonic scale is constructed of the root, second, major third, fifth, and major sixth scale degrees. For example, a C major pentatonic scale is built of the notes C, D, E, G, and A. I like to think of it as a C major arpeggio with the major second and major sixth degrees added. You can also find it by taking the Ionian, Lydian, or Mixolydian modes and omitting the fourth and seventh scale degrees.

Do you notice any similarity between the C major pentatonic and A minor pentatonic? That’s right, they are both made of the same notes. Any major pentatonic scale will have the same notes as a minor pentatonic scale a minor third (three half-steps or frets) below it, and any minor pentatonic scale will have the same notes as a major pentatonic a minor third above it.

Though often the first step, knowing the pentatonic scales is essential for mastering bass guitar scales.


Bass Guitar Scales Revelation: The Importance Of The Major Scale December 8, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — flutelfrio @ 11:34 am

Though the straight major scale may not be your cup of tea, it is the gateway to mastery of all other bass guitar scales.  It is the scale against which all other scales are defined.

For example, take the C major scale.

If we define each note in terms of a number:

C = 1

D = 2

E = 3

F = 4

G = 5

A = 6

B = 7

And we know that a Mixolydian scale has the formula 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7,

we can easily find a C Mixolydian scale:

C D E F G A Bb

Try to apply these scale definitions to C:

Dorian: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7

Phrygian: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

Lydian: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7

Mixolydian: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7

Aeolian: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

Locrian: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

These are the modes of the major scale.  More on modes later.

Good Luck!


Sharps Fingering Chart For Bass Guitar Scales

Filed under: Uncategorized — flutelfrio @ 10:40 am


For all of you who aren’t quite familiar with note names on the bass guitar, here are four fingering charts. I’ve written them in notation and tab, with the note names spelled out in between.

In case you’re wondering # means sharp, and b means flat. Really, the flat sign should look better but a lowercase b suffices.

When learning the note names, it’s easier to practice sharps when you are ascending and flats when you are descending.

These are the natural notes and sharps, the flats are coming soon!

The G String

The D String

The A String

The E String

How to practice this material

  • Tackle one string at a time!
  • Concentrate on the natural notes first (the ones that don’t end with #)
  • Once you’ve got the naturals, the sharps are only one fret higher. On the G string for example: A is played on the second fret and A# is played on the third fret
  • Work on a few close together frets at a time. Twelve is too many!
  • Finally, identify pitches of the same name on different strings. An example: Find a C on the G string (fifth fret), on the D string (10th fret), on the A string (3rd fret), on the E string (8th fret). Do this for each and every pitch.



There’s More Than One Way To Play Bass Guitar Scales

Filed under: Uncategorized — flutelfrio @ 9:33 am

Take your average, run of the mill, C Major scale. Of all the bass guitar scales, it’s the most common scale that students study in the beginning. Though it’s not the most played scale, it is the most important scale for beginners to learn because it contains all of the natural notes. Because once you’ve learned the C Major scale, it’s easy to find any sharp or flat notes because you know all of the naturals. In case you’re wondering, a sharp note is one half step (in bass language: one fret) higher than a natural note, and a flat note is one fret lower. For example: G is played on the third fret of the E string, G Sharp (or G#) is played on the fourth fret, and G flat (Gb) is played on the second fret.

But there is more than one way to play a C major scale. The pitches are always the same, but there are almost infinite ways of playing them on the bass guitar.

Most electric bass guitarists learn this shape first:

It’s easy to finger. This is an in position scale shape. In fact it’s a C Major scale in second position. What do I mean by in position? In position means that each finger is glued to one fret. In this example: the middle finger always playse the third fret notes; the index finger always plays the second fret; the ring finger always plays the fourth fret; the pinky finger always plays the fifth fret. Sometimes the index or pinky fingers need to stretch an extra fret to reach notes that don’t just lie under the fingers, but we’ll deall with that when we get there.

Once you’ve got that one memorized, try playing this:


Notice how this seventh position pattern has exactly the same shape as Second Position. You only have to move the root note (if you don’t know, the root note is the note the scale is based on in this case C) to the E String. This is a big secret of learning the bass guitar! And a distinct advantage over a six string spanish-style guitar. Because the intervals between ALL of the strings is a fourth, bass guitar makes much more logical sense than your common six string, where there is a major third fault line between the G and B strings.

Anyway, sorry to digress. Another important way to learn bass guitar scales is three notes per string patterns. Check this out:

In this example the third fret and fourth fret notes are fretted by the index finger, the fifth fret notes by the middle finger, and the seventh fret notes by the pinky finger. Notice: the ring finger doesn’t fret any notes, but lay it behind the pinky to give additional support. We can move this shape from the A string to the E string like before:

The shape transposes as easily as before.

You might think I’m crazy, but there are still more logical ways to play a C Major Scale. Try this four notes per string pattern:

Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky. With four notes per string patterns, you have to decide on the fingering that works best for you. There are four options:

  • Shift on the first finger. The first two notes ascending (last two descending) on each string are played with the index finger.
  • Shift on the ring finger. The second and third notes on a string (ascending or descending) are played with the ring finger.
  • Shift on the pinky finger. The last note on a string ascending (first note descending) are played with the pinky finger.
  • Each note on a string gets a finger. In this example: on the A string C=index D=middle E=ring F=pinky G=index A=middle B=ring and high C=pinky.

It’s important to experiment with the fingering options above and decide on one that’s most comfortable for you. Personally, I prefer to shift on the index finger, but that may not be the case for you.<Like before, move the four notes per string pattern on the A string to the E string:

Last, but certainly not least, the C Major scale can be played up and down one string. In fact, any bass guitar scale can be played this way. I think it is the most often overlooked way to play scales, and the most important, because it opens up the entire fretboard. Here it is on the A string:

Ah! That feels good. For now, play it with one finger at a time. What I mean is be able to play a C Major scale up and down the A string with your index, middle, ring and pinky fingers. Try it on the E string as well:

Have you got it?

There you are: the best ways to play bass guitar scales.

  • In position(s)
  • Three Notes Per String
  • Four Notes Per String
  • Up and Down a Single String

Feel free to apply this to any other bass guitar scales you may be familiar with. Until next time, happy practicing.